Pope Francis has arrived in Burma for a three-day visit that is likely to be overshadowed by claims of ethnic cleansing against the country’s government.
The Pope is scheduled to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, on Tuesday, and General Min Aung Hlaing, the chief of the military, on Thursday. Both have been widely condemned over the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
During his time in the country, Buddhists, Muslims and the world’s press will closely monitor the Pope’s speeches for any mention of the Rohingya. The country’s government refers to them as Bengalis and asserts that they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
Even any mention of the word ‘Rohingya’ would be politically charged and likely to offend the country’s government and Buddhist hardliners. However, if the Pope does not mention them, it will be seen as a strange omission.
The Pope has previously condemned the treatment of the Rohingya, calling them his “brothers and sisters”, and expressed his “full closeness to them”. He even encouraged Catholics to “ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of good will to help them, who shall give them their full rights”.
After the three-day trip, the Pope will visit Bangladesh before returning to Rome on Saturday.